Getting Shallow Depth of Field in Nature and Wildlife Video

Depth of field is defined simply the distance between the nearest and farthest object that is in acceptable focus in your shot.

Now with small chip cameras, getting deep depth of field is pretty easy. In fact, it’s a given. But what is a bit harder to achieve is what is called shallow depth of field.
With shallow depth of field, the distance between the closest and farthest object that are in focus in your frame is not very deep or “shallow”. The biggest reason why you would want shallow depth of field would be to isolate your subject from a distracting background and make it stand out on its own.

The video explains how to do three simple things to get the shallowest depth of field possible with your camera.

Now I should note that this technique works great out in the field but it would be extremely difficult to use in an office or other small room. So if your goal is to do a lot of talking head interviews and have a nice blurry background behind your subject, this probably won’t work for you. But for shooting nature and wildlife video it’s a great method to keep in your bag of tricks.

You can see this method used extensively in another tutorial on filming woodland wildflowers.

Leave a comment below if you’ve found this tutorial on obtaining shallow depth of field useful. Also, feel free to drop me an email if there’s a topic you’ve been curious about. Who knows, maybe it will be covered in the next tutorial!

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker

About the Author:

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic.
His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.

7 Comments

  1. Larry Prince December 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    Nice Tip…about shallow depth of field….

    • Kevin J Railsback December 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks Larry!
      So many people think its impossible to get shallow depth of field with small chip video cameras.
      Certainly it’s not as easy as with a DSLR but if your willing to work within the limitations such as zooming all the way in on your subject you can get a great look.

  2. Todd August 7, 2013 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    Great video, great shots, great style – thanks.

    I’m relatively new to using prosumer cameras, having just upgraded from a fairly basic mini dv cam from 2005!

    I’ve now got a Panasonic AC90, and from one of you ‘self shots’ it looks like you might be using the same, or similar?

    At around 4.50 you also rack focus, which is something I’d really like to be able to do .. if you’ve already done a tutorial on this can you please let me know where to find it, and if not, would you consider doing one?

    Thanks

    Todd

    • Kevin J Railsback August 7, 2013 at 8:43 am - Reply

      Hi Todd,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I really appreciate it.

      My main camera I use right ow is the Panasonic HPX250. Love that camera! AVC-Intra codec, long zoom, it’s really helped me get some better footage.
      Only thing I wish it had is 1080p/60p. I really dislike shooting 720p/60p to shoot slow motion and I really hardly ever shoot slow motion anymore and I used to LOVE shooting slow motion.

      My B camera that I use when filming tutorials where I’m shooting with the 250 is the HPX170.
      Really good camera but can’t hold a candle to the HPX250.

      Don’t have anything on doing a rack focus bit I cando one pretty easily.

      Let me see what my schedule is like and I can go out and do one pretty quickly for you.

      Thanks again for stopping and and leaving a comment.

      Let me know what else I can help you with learning how to shoot better nature and wildlife video!

      Kevin

  3. Todd August 30, 2013 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Thanks Kevin,

    Fingers crossed you can find some time soon!

    Cheers

    Todd

    • Kevin J Railsback August 30, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

      Todd,
      I’ll see if I can get out this weekend and put together some tutorials and do some filming.
      It’s about as hot as the surface of the sun this week so hopefully it’s start cooling down after tomorrow!

  4. Todd January 15, 2014 at 2:03 am - Reply

    Hi Kevin,

    I’m embarrassed to say that I really haven’t progressed any further, so no pressure … but I’d really appreciate it if you could shoot a ‘small chip camera and rack focus/ pull focus’ and DOF tutorial.

    Thanks

    Todd

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